4-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 7/10/2012
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PAR Springer-Miller ISVs Cloud Solution Helps Cut Costs, Transform Business in the Global Hospitality Industry

For nearly three decades, PAR Springer-Miller has provided solutions to help businesses in the hospitality industry run their operations. When the global recession hit, the ISV decided to reposition itself with a new business division and an innovative cloud-based solution that runs on Windows Azure. The ATRIO Guest Experience Management solution, a modular software suite that provides core business functionality to hotels and resorts, allows businesses to avoid the costs of on-premises IT systems and provides an intuitive interface that reduces staff training time and helps to enhance the guest experience. For PAR Springer-Miller, Windows Azure provides an enormously versatile development platform on which the company can build and deploy hotel management solutions quickly for its global customer base.

Situation

PAR Springer-Miller Systems is a leading provider of software for the global hospitality industry. The company has built its market presence and reputation with solutions used by hotels, resorts, and restaurants in 61 countries to manage reservations, billings, and a wide range of guest services. Its flagship products are the SMS Host Hospitality Management System and the SpaSoft Spa Management System, which are on-premises solutions for tasks such as making reservations, booking guest services like spa appointments and golf tee times, and transferring guest information across different hotel properties. The company’s customers include major brand names such as Pebble Beach Resort, Gleneagles, and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

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* We wanted to launch a compelling new product that would not only address current industry needs, but could really help propel the industry forward as it comes out of the recession. *

Larry Hall
President & Chief Executive Officer
PAR Springer-Miller

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When the global recession hit, around 2008, management at PAR Springer-Miller recognized that it was a time of both financial peril and opportunity—and a good time to reevaluate the company’s products and long-term strategy. “There was a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the global economy,” says Larry Hall, President and Chief Executive Officer of PAR Springer-Miller. “We had products that served us well for nearly three decades, but felt we really needed to rethink what we were doing. We wanted to launch a compelling new product that would not only address current industry needs, but could really help propel the industry forward as it comes out of the recession.”

PAR Springer-Miller identified important factors that were defining the evolving hospitality market. One was cost. A top concern among hotel managers and executives was the need to contain and, if possible, reduce operating expenses. These include IT expenses for traditional on-premises solutions involving expensive hardware and software purchases, maintenance, and upgrades. “The recession changed the industry’s view of computing costs,” says Hall. “There was going to be permanent pressure to cut IT expenses.”

Another factor was harder to measure but equally important: providing far more flexible and agile operational systems that could help businesses respond faster to new opportunities, growth markets, and shifting customer demands. “We wanted to build a hotel management solution with rich features and a ‘walk-up-and-use’ intuitive design that could help our clients transform their daily operations and increase their competitiveness,” says Hall. For example, the company wanted to provide ubiquitous touch-screen functionality in addition to traditional keyboards and mice at the points of contact with customers, which would allow hotel employees to maintain more eye contact to enhance the customer’s experience.

The solution also needed to provide built-in support for multiple languages, currency conversions, and localized taxation policies, with enough flexibility to be easily adapted in growth markets such as China. These international capabilities are important for hoteliers with operations in multiple countries who want to streamline guest relations as much as possible. For example, when a customer visits several international properties within the same family of hotels during a trip, the new solution should be able to provide the customer’s current information, displayed in the local language and with relevant location-specific information, when the customer checks in. This would help ensure a smooth and consistent customer experience.

“We looked at the industry trends and felt that cloud computing was going to be a critical factor for the industry moving forward,” says Hall. “Therefore, cloud computing had to be central to our new-product strategy. We wanted to move beyond simply taking a legacy product and porting it to the cloud. We decided to build a cloud solution from the ground up to meet the needs of our industry customers.”

Solution

PAR Springer-Miller, which is a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, decided to create a fundamentally new industry solution: theATRIO Guest Experience Management platform, which it built to run on Windows Azure. The company went live with ATRIO in early 2012.

“We evaluated other cloud providers when we first began work on the project, including offerings from Amazon and Google,” says Scott Abramson, General Manager of ATRIO at PAR Springer-Miller. “We chose Windows Azure because we felt it was the best cloud platform for helping us transform our business—and the hospitality industry—with an innovative new solution for hotel operations. Windows Azure eliminates the need for us to manage IT infrastructure, allowing us to focus on developing software that brings great new functionality and benefits to our customers. Also, because Windows Azure is based on the Microsoft .NET environment, it was easy for our developers to leverage their existing skills.”

PAR Springer-Miller designed ATRIO with several key characteristics, including:

Ease of use for hotel employees. “We designed the user interface for the new generation of employees who will be staffing hotels in the coming years,” says McKenzie. “It has the look and feel of web-based applications that are familiar to ‘Generation Y’ users, allowing them to begin using the system easily without a lot of training. We designed it for use with touchscreens and keyboards, and created individual widgets that can be ported easily to different form factors such as smartphones, tablets, and other devices that may appear in the future.”

A “guest-centric view” of routine tasks. ATRIO collects information on customers, and then provides hotel employees with an at-a-glance view of their preferences for amenities and housekeeping. This helps employees deliver more personalized services, such as saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to a guest or knowing that a repeat customer prefers a specific brand of bottled water.

Rapid feature updates. The solution is designed for fast release of updates and new features to all users.

Ease of integration with other systems. The solution is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing enterprise applications and data.

PAR Springer-Miller took advantage of several Windows Azure platform products to create ATRIO. It uses Windows Azure Compute to run its application code in the cloud. Windows Azure Storage provides scalable and easily accessed cloud-based storage services, including both Tables and Blobs. The company uses the Windows Azure Service Bus for messaging across its ATRIO suite of applications. And for its cloud database needs, PAR Springer-Miller uses SQL Database (formerly known as SQL Azure Database) and SQL Reporting.

Benefits

The decision by PAR Springer-Miller to create a new, lower-cost solution built on Windows Azure has positioned the company to enhance its standing among hoteliers worldwide as the industry emerges from the recession. The ATRIO software, which is a modular suite of products, provides industry customers with deployment and pricing flexibility and enhanced security measures, all supported by Windows Azure. For PAR Springer-Miller, Windows Azure delivers a platform that gives the software maker the ability to innovate faster in response to industry needs.

Lowers Total Cost of IT Ownership for Customers

Hall says that, with Windows Azure, PAR Springer-Miller has delivered a compelling new product that addresses the cost concerns of hotel operations around the world. “The ATRIO platform brings a significant improvement to the total cost of ownership of IT systems for hotels and resorts,” he says.

He explains that by bringing hotel operations to the cloud via Windows Azure, which runs in Microsoft data centers, his company has reduced the amount of server hardware that hotels have to buy, maintain, and update. The ATRIO offering provides a lower cost of entry than on-premise solutions, and creates opportunities in markets that were not as easy to access in the past. “This is especially true in China, where people are spending a lot more money when it comes to both personal and business travel. In the past few years, there has been an industry growth rate of about 20 percent—much faster than [China’s] GDP growth,” says Tim Guo, General Manager for PAR Technologies in Shanghai.

The ATRIO solution also benefits hotels with its streamlined design and zero-training user interface. In an industry that is affected by high turnover rates, lowered employee training costs is very important.

“We created a solution that not only can be used across multiple platforms, like smartphones, tablets, and workstations, but also is easy for new employees to quickly begin using,” says Tasha McKenzie, Senior Product Manager for ATRIO at PAR Springer-Miller. “We have been able to cut the amount of time it takes to train employees from an average of three to six weeks in the past to about three hours now.”

She continues, “The two aspects of ATRIO—the cloud-based cost-effectiveness of Windows Azure and the user-friendly interface of our software—will help our customers cut down significantly on their IT and training costs. That puts them in better position to compete in the hospitality industry.”

Provides Customers with DeploymentFlexibilityand Enhanced Security

Because of its Windows Azure-based architecture, the ATRIO solution gives hotels and resorts great flexibility in their deployment choices. This flexibility is delivered both through the modularity of the ATRIO suite and the utility-like nature of the Windows Azure computing and storage services.

“Our customers run the gamut from small, independently owned boutique hotels to large international chains,” says Hall. “The modular components of ATRIO allow them to select which components are best suited for their operations and budgets without forcing them to commit to a large and expensive all-in-one system.”

Plus, with Windows Azure, businesses no longer have to worry about planning for extensive hardware and software systems. Instead, they benefit from the subscription-based, pay-as-you-go billing model of Windows Azure, which makes it possible for them to scale resources up or down as demand dictates. This is a real benefit for the highly cyclical hospitality industry, which routinely experiences spikes and drops in demand depending on the day of the week or the ebb and flow of holiday and vacation periods.

“For our hotel customers, Windows Azure supports a service that is simply there for them to turn on when they’re ready,” says McKenzie. “They can get operations up and running more quickly than in the past, and have the peace of mind that it’s simply there—they don’t have to worry about maintaining and updating systems like they did with on-premises installations.”

Abramson adds that the built-in security features of Windows Azure complement what his company built into the ATRIO product. “Security and the management of sensitive information are of paramount importance to our customers,” he says. “The Windows Azure security model, combined with the security features of ATRIO, provides a robust security environment that helps protect the confidentiality of financial data and customers’ personal information.”

Supports Innovation and Growth

The decision by PAR Springer-Miller to build ATRIO on Windows Azure came at a time when many companies in the hospitality industry were avoiding major strategic initiatives. The software company’s executive management, however, felt that a cloud-based product built on Windows Azure would give it a competitive advantage as the industry emerged from the global recession.

“Bringing the new ATRIO platform to market using Windows Azure let us go on a strategic offensive while our competitors were retrenching,” says Hall. “Windows Azure helps us take advantage of new technologies to deliver new and compelling solutions to our customers.”

By eliminating the need to support an IT infrastructure, PAR Springer-Miller can focus all its efforts on building new features for the ATRIO product suite, either by augmenting current functions or creating entirely new features based on customer requests. With Windows Azure, the developers can build and test features quickly and roll them out to customers much faster than in the past.

“Our business model is to be a services provider. We believe that, in the future, 90 or even 100 percent of our customers will want to take advantage of our cloud-based product,” says Hall. “That opens up a tremendous potential for new service offerings that we can deliver to customers as point solutions. And with the global presence of Windows Azure data centers, we can easily bring a wide range of services to all our customers, in all of the countries in which we operate.”

Microsoft Cloud Services

Microsoft offers a complete set of cloud-based solutions to meet business needs, including solutions for advertising, communications (email, meetings), collaboration (document storage, sharing, workflow), business applications (customer resource management, business productivity), data storage and management, and infrastructure services. In addition, customers can take advantage of an entire ecosystem of solution providers and Microsoft partners. For more information, please visitwww.microsoft.com/cloud

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:www.microsoft.com

For more information about PAR Springer-Miller products and services, call (800) 448-6505 or visit the website at: www.springermiller.com

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

Solution Overview




Business Situation

PAR Springer-Miller wanted to build a new solution for the hospitality industry to help businesses provide enhanced customer service while cutting costs.


Solution

The company created a cloud solution using Windows Azure that reduces or eliminates the need for on-premises systems while increasing the ease and flexibility of performing common tasks.


Benefits

  • Lowers total cost of ownership for IT systems
  • Provides deployment flexibility and enhanced security
  • Supports continuous innovation


Organization Profile

PAR Springer-Miller Systems, a Gold-competency member of the Microsoft Partner Network, is a subsidiary of the PAR Technology Corporation. It is headquartered in New Hartford, New York, and has offices in Vermont and Nevada.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Cloud Services
  • Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting
  • Microsoft SQL Azure
  • Microsoft SQL Azure Database

Vertical Industries
  • Hospitality & Travel
  • Accommodation
  • Travel

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Cloud Services

Languages
English

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